The young man on trial for fatally stabbing a stranger whom he mistook for someone else was splattered in blood when police apprehended him shortly after the murder, an officer testified yesterday. Joel Herrera, who is accused of fatally stabbing Glenn Wright because he thought Wright had stolen from his cousin, is currently on trial for murder in the second degree. Yesterday the officers who arrested him testified that Herrara claimed he just had a bloody nose when they caught him.
Police Officer Christopher Delmar of the 9th Precinct recalled that he was driving up Avenue B in an unmarked car but in uniform around 6:20 p.m. on the evening of Wright's murder. He was accompanied by Officer Thomas Gallagher, and both officers testified yesterday that around that time they spotted Herrara running through the Jacob Riis Houses at East 8th Street. Delmar told the court that Herrara stopped running when he spotted the car, then took off again when Delmar drove toward him. According to Delmar, Herrara had a smear of blood on his forehead, and blood on the palms and back of his hands.
Herrara heeded the officers' order to stop, and Delmar testified that Herrara said he was just "running home to get a tissue for his bloody nose." However, his residence was "not in close proximity" to where he was arrested. No weapons were found on Herrara, but officers did find six bags of marijuana in a sunglass case in his pants. While they were frisking Herrara, the officers received a call about an assault nearby, telling officers to be on the lookout for four Hispanic males in black shirts and blue jeans.
Delmar testified that they soon spotted three additional Hispanic males running in their direction. They were wearing white T-shirts, but after the officers stopped them, Delmar said black T-shirts in their possession (one stuffed inside a baseball cap, one in a backpack, one in the back jeans pocket). No weapons were found, but while the suspects were being searched, Delmar noticed Herrara trying to wipe the blood off his hands using the side of the wet car. (It had been raining that day.) Herrara was told to stop wiping off the blood, but Delmar testified that he did not, and the officers did not preserve the blood no his hands. However, other blood samples obtained were tested for DNA. (The test results were not discussed during testimony yesterday.)
Also testifying yesterday was Detective Kevin Madden, who secured the crime scene at the Baruch Houses. He said the Evidence Collection Team [ETC] looked for weapons in and around the building, and found a small, rusty knife. Later Madden went to the precinct and spoke with Herrera, who had already had his Miranda rights read to him. He requested that he call a friend to take care of his dogs, then Herrera allegedly told Madden he thought Wright had robbed his little cousin, "and wanted to teach him a lesson with his own hands."
Madden testified that Herrera told him he went up to Wright, saying, "You like to rob little boys?" Wright did not respond, so Herrera allegedly said he thought he was guilty and a physical altercation ensued. Herrara also wrote a statement saying that if he had been wrong about the victim being the man who robbed his cousin, he was "very, very sorry."
The statement's final line, which Madden read in court, said, "I am gratefully sorry to him and his family for the harm I have caused." Hearing this, Wright's sister, Karina Rodriguez, left the courtroom. Later she told us simply, "It's too much."
(Reporting by Rebecca Fishbein)